Cricket: England in spin over Maninder

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Delhi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .286

England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .154-5

INDIA'S spinners are thinner on the ground than of old, and certainly more prosaic than when the likes of Chandra, Bedi and Prasanna were charming cobras out of their baskets, but on the evidence of yesterday's play here against England, they may not have to be.

There are certain allowances to be made for the inevitable early tour rust, and the fact that the dawn journey down the manic road that links Delhi with Faridabad is better preparation for a padded cell than a game of cricket, but it was nonetheless ominous to watch England's batsmen struggle against an off-spinner more part- time than Graeme Hick, and a left- arm spinner who was last spotted in England bowling involuntary long hops and donkey drops in the Lancashire leagues.

Kirti Azad took three wickets with his occasional off-breaks as England ended the second day of a match almost certainly going nowhere on 154 for 5, but 0 for 49 from 20 consecutive overs in no way reflected the one-sided game of blind man's buff that represented Maninder Singh versus England's front-line batsmen.

Maninder's last serious engagement against England was in the World Cup semi-final in Bombay in 1987, when Graham Gooch's sweep shot swept him into near oblivion, and his rehabilitation in the hard-nosed northern leagues of England was apparently terminated two years ago with an uncontrollable bout of the yips.

For some peculiar reason, this affliction appears to lie in wait purely for left-arm spinners. Ravi Shastri is only just about over it, and Derbyshire's Fred Swarbrook latterly took to consulting a psychiatrist, who prescribed (no kidding) rubbing a smooth pebble carried in the pocket of his flannels, supposedly to soothe away his tensions. After bowling the same rubbish as before, his skipper, David Steele, approached him at the end of an over with a concerned and fatherly look in his eye and said: 'Bloody hell, Fred, why don't you try bowling the pebble instead.'

There are still signs of a jerk in Maninder's action, especially with his arm ball, but it was mostly a beguiling exhibition of loop and spin on a lifeless pitch, and more than once he got the ball to turn sideways. Mike Gatting, who eats spinners (and just about everything else) for breakfast, struck him for one magnificent six over long-off, but only after a series of hesitant dabs and close shaves.

Hick, trying something similar, miscued just over the mid-off fieldsman's head. Just before he was out, Michael Atherton, who had been beaten numerous times outside off-stump, was badly dropped at square-leg, sweeping. On yesterday's form, if not figures, England have a fair chance of running into Maninder again during the Test series.

Atherton did precisely what he is good at yesterday, wearying the bowlers, not to mention the spectators, with good old-fashioned technique and application, and his 59 occupied almost as many overs until he was caught at short-leg off Kirti Azad.

Atherton might have survived the bat-pad appeal, but whereas others have cultivated the 'who me, sir?' air of angelic innocence on these occasions, Atherton's routine of stepping away from his stumps and looking away from the umpire has the effect of implying an involuntary step towards the pavilion and a guilty conscience. On this occasion he knew he was out, but he might care to re-examine his routine on the basis that in this part of the world, the umpires do not need any extra help.

Gooch has been through 15 different opening partners for England, and has even stood one or two of them up after their first date. However, Atherton is technically and temperamentally suited to opening, and is surely earmarked to resume alongside Gooch.

Gooch himself was marked down as a near certainty to record his 100th first-class century yesterday, although whether or not he regarded the grim concrete surrounds of the Nahar Singh Stadium an inappropriate venue, the captain almost nicked his second ball to the wicketkeeper, and holed out to cover after making 24.

However, it now appears that Gooch's next century, wherever it might be, will be his 99th and not his 100th. One of them was made for England's 'rebel' team on their South African Breweries Tour in 1981-82, and was not an officially-recognised match.

Earlier yesterday, Delhi lost their last seven first-innings wickets for 96 runs to a combination of good bowling from Paul Jarvis, and a belated attempt by the Ranji champions to recognise that this was a three, rather than a 33-day, match. The accelerator was pressed after Hitesh Sharma, having moved from his overnight 87 to 88 in a further 40 minutes (making six and three-quarter hours in all) was lbw to Chris Lewis. The umpire had had enough of him as well.

FARIDABAD SCOREBOARD

(Second day: England won toss)

DELHI - First Innings

(Overnight: 190 for 3)

H Sharma lbw b Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

K P Bhaskar c Stewart b Jarvis . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

* Kirti Azad c Stewart b Jarvis . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

V Razdan c Fairbrother b Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Maninder Singh c Hick b Malcolm . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

A S Wassan lbw b Tufnell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

F Ghyas st Stewart b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

] M Chaturvedi not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Extras (b2 lb14 nb15 w2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .286

Fall (cont): 4-195 5-201 6-209 7-211 8-272 9-272.

Bowling: Malcolm 24-9-50-1; Jarvis 25-8-61-3; Lewis 26-3-70-3; Tufnell 23 4-4-66-2; Reeve 6-2-11-0; Hick 10-5-12-1.

ENGLAND - First Innings

* G A Gooch c Maninder Singh b Razdan. . . . . . . . . .24

M A Atherton c H Sharma b Kirti Azad . . . . . . . . . .59

] A J Stewart lbw b Wassan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

M W Gatting b Kirti Azad . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

G A Hick not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

P W Jarvis b Kirti Azad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Extras (b4 lb2 nb9). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Total (for 5). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154

To bat: N H Fairbrother, C C Lewis, D A Reeve, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

Fall: 1-42 2-86 3-139 4-150 5-154.

Umpires: V K Ramaswamy and R Rathore.

Test reports, page 27

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